Artist Edwina Cooper took a residency deep in the Flinders Ranges, hundreds of kilometres from the ocean, to escape her water obsession but it found a way to follow her.
Cooper was out of her comfort zone but she still wanted to make sure her practise of engaging the very intimate relationship between humans and water continued to inspire her work.
As part of the 2020 Grindell’s Hut artist residency, a program run by Country Arts SA, Cooper spent three weeks in an isolated cabin in the northern Flinders Ranges, before heading back to her studio completely inspired by the terrain and it’s relationship with water.
“I spent three weeks creating and it was quite different for me because I’m usually a sculptural and installation artist,” she said.
“The residency really forced me to go back to the roots of drawing and working on the wall.”
A sailor and sea lover at heart, Cooper felt it was time for a challenge.
Cooper sought to investigate the difference in perspective between looking at the land-based horizon line as opposed to the one usually seen on the water, the difference in a humans perspective looking out onto an empty desert in comparison to a vast ocean.
“Thinking about land as polar to the ocean and how we have a relationship with the land and that horizon line that predates us,” Cooper said.
“When we look out to the horizon line of the ocean or water bodies we are looking out to the future or the phenomena that are coming towards us.
Cooper explored the notion of looking forward to the ocean, the new versus the land beneath us, what has come before us, an idea born by the ancient fossils, half a billion-year-old rocks of the greater Flinders.
She collated her pieces for an exhibition aptly named “From this side of the horizon” at Yarta Purtli Gallery in Port Augusta, where the sea meets the outback.
While pushing herself away from her usual inspiration, Cooper found irony in the rain that fell while she worked from the isolated cabin, in an area that has suffered years of drought.
“I felt water had followed me,” she said.
“I learnt of the intricacies of the drought, having those conversations and hearing about others’ intimate relationships with water,” she said.
Data and exploration
One of Cooper’s works depicts water levels on the rock faces and scattered rocks synonymous with the Flinders Ranges, a site on the brink of world heritage listing.
Cooper investigated varied weather phenomena in the area, playing with the concept of moisture in a place historically dry.
An almost topographic sketch included water levels after the ranges received much-needed rain during her stay.
“I took up a moisture meter and after it rained I went round to nine different rock sites and took the retained moisture level, went back about a week later and took it again,” she said.
“Everyone was saying the ground was thirsty and would drink the rain, not retain the moisture.